Storm sewers

  • Controlling storm water pollution

    According to recent studies, polluted storm water is a major cause of water pollution problems in New York State. One way we can help is by increasing the amount of water that soaks into the ground. This reduces the amount of water flowing into the street. Here's what you can do to help:

    Plant trees, shrubs or ground covers.
    Maintain your lawn with minimal use of chemicals. 
    Redirect downspouts from paved areas to vegetated areas. 
    Use a rain barrel to catch and store water from gardens. 
    Install gravel trenches along driveways or patios. 
    Use wooden planks, bricks or interlocking stones for walkways and patios. 
    If building a new home, have the driveway and walkways graded so water flows into lawn areas. 
    Don't accumulate soil, leaves or grass clippings on your driveway, sidewalk or street. During the next rain, these materials will wash into the nearest storm sewer. Compost them instead. 
    Don't dump automotive fluids, paints, pesticides or other materials down the storm sewer. 
    Apply fertilizers and pesticides in recommended amounts based on results of a soil test. 
    Sweep (don't wash) soil, leaves, fertilizer and grass clippings off paved areas. 
    Minimize your use of de-icing materials. 
    Dispose of pet wastes by burial. 

    What communities can do to help:

    Adopt and enforce erosion and sediment control ordinances for construction sites. 
    Require storm water controls in all new developments. 
    Install storm water controls in existing areas where storm water is very polluted. 
    Increase street sweeping and clean out catch basins. 
    Require yard wastes to be places along the curb for collection rather than in the gutter. 
    Promote recycling and household chemical disposal programs.

    Where does the storm sewer go?

    If you look in the street outside of your home or office and search the parking lot around town, you will probably find storm sewer inlets. Did you ever wonder where they go?

    A common misconception about storm sewers is that they go to a waste water treatment plant. This is not always the case. Storm sewers often transport storm water (rain and melting snow) directly to the nearest river, lake, stream, wetland or groundwater recharge basin.

    Storm water often contains pollutants found on streets and parking lots such as oil, antifreeze, gasoline, soil, litter, pet wastes, fertilizers, pesticides, leaves and grass clippings. When these materials enter water, they can destroy wildlife habitats, cause beach closings and restrict shellfish harvesting.

    With thousands of storm sewer inlets around town, storm water is a major contributor to water pollution in urban areas. Although each storm sewer inlet contributes only a small number of pollutants, when added together, pollution concentrations often exceed the limits established for industries and wastewater treatment plants. If the pollutants entering each of these inlets can be reduced, so will the pollution in area waters.